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# 4 – Justin MacPherson (2018 Draft)
Played a simple game and moved the puck effectively out of his own zone on the majority of occasions he had control. Had the confidence to seek the puck, and possessed it many times during the game albeit for a short amount of time, as he moved pucks quickly upon receiving them.. A couple d-zone passes were turned over to the opposition, where a play up the boards would have been preferred.. Showed good knee bend in his backwards skating and kept his stick near the puck carriers, limiting their space to work.. MacPherson has some two-way upside with his puck-moving and good defensive skating
# 44 – Akil Thomas (2018 Draft)
Possessed the puck more than anyone else on the ice.. Skating stride is a bit upright and wobbly, but Thomas is a relatively speedy player, and faster than he initially appears.. He had 4 controlled d-zone exits, and 5 full-speed puck rushes up ice.. Played with a bit of an edge and finished his checks all over the ice.. Used his strength and positioning to gain the edge in loose puck battles even before he and the opponent would reach the puck.. This allowed him to retrieve many pucks and create a lot of plays.. Showed considerable speed without the puck and would find space to catch a pass, while also looking for open teammates before receiving these passes.. Did this in the neutral zone on rushes and made a few cross-ice passes allowing teammates time and space to enter the o-zone.. Had 7 effective passes in total.
# 10 – Merrick Rippon (2018 Draft)
Played an outstanding defensive game.. Was strong on the puck and won every 50/50 battle he was in.. Used his body to shield the puck, and his sharp edges/quick feet to maneuver away from forecheckers.. Displayed good backwards skating and knee bend which allowed for side to side movements as opponents rushed up ice.. Outstanding stick checking as well. Poked the puck away from the opposition on a number of occasions.. Made effective short distance passes in the defensive and neutral zones to move the puck up ice (7 in total).
# 91 – Ryan McLeod (2018 Draft)
Was shifty with the puck and made explosive movements to buy time and space.. Bent his knees, got low to the ice, and turned his back to the opposition in order to shield the puck effectively in the offensive zone.. McLeod has unbelievable pace, but only had 1 full-speed puck rush in the game, and played more of a calculating, lower paced style.. Had 6 effective passes at short-range, and 1 long-range pass in the offensive zone that led to a great scoring opportunity.. Displayed his heavy shot, and had 3 directed towards the net, with 2 of those being wide of the cage.. McLeod is a projected mid-first-round pick.
# 8 – Jackson Leppard (2018 Draft)
Was very strong on the puck and won multiple 50/50 battles. Showed off blazing speed on the rush, as well as in defensive scenarios on the forecheck and backcheck.. Good stickhandler in traffic.. Completed 5 effective passes in the outing.
# 6 – Dylan Plouffe (Overage 2018 Draft)
Has really improved from last season, which was his initial draft year… Is currently rivalling, and in many cases exceeding other ‘99 drafted defencemen in terms of point production and overall play.. Completed 9 effective passes in this game.. Defended off the rush and in his own zone with his stick first and body second.. Completed many poke checks to disrupt the puck carrier and gain possession.. Showed a smooth and patient skating style as he carried the puck up ice, readying to make a pass.. Had 3 heavy shots that hit the target, 2 snapshots and 1 slapshot..
Based on his current form, Plouffe should be considered as a potential signing, and at the least deserves a mid-to-late round draft selection or a camp invite in the summer.
# 14 – James Malm (Overage 2018 Draft)
An undrafted ‘99 forward.. Showed outstanding energy levels as he was constantly buzzing around the ice.. Very quick player from stop, and has one of the faster top end speeds.. Got to many loose pucks and was able to maintain control for long stretches of time.. Completed 6 effective passes in the game.. Displayed soft hands and the ability to toe-drag before shooting the puck.
# 40 – Milos Roman (2018 Draft)
Has a great skating stride with deep knee bend and length off each push.. Used his speed on the rush as teammates carried the puck, looking to receive a pass, and also backing up defenders who had to consider his threats.. Completed 7 short-to-mid range passes in the game, and was successful on the cycle carrying the puck and with the drop pass… Was quite shifty with the puck and used his edges to maneuver laterally away from oncoming forecheckers.. Displayed soft hands and was able to deke around the opposition, especially in the neutral zone, where he had significant control of the puck..
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# 5 – Sean Durzi
Has a decent skating stride that combines proficient knee bend with length. Needs to improve power and strength in order to maximize speed, which is an area of concern for Durzi. He had issues in the game with the faster Knight players on the rush and in quick movements around his own net. Durzi’s playmaking was outstanding in the game as he completed 12 effective passes, and quarterbacked his team up ice. His shot looked much improved, with a quicker release and higher velocity. Last year, Durzi had 2 goals in 60 games… this year, he has 4 goals in his first 9 games.
# 27 – Aidan Dudas
A small (5’8) forward who plays at a very high pace. Dudas is consistently near top speed with and without the puck and possesses boundless energy. He got in hard on the forecheck, disrupting the London Knights breakout 5 times in the game. Dudas controlled the puck on many occasions in the neutral zone, mostly by moving his feet to find open ice, and receiving passes from teammates. He had 7 controlled zone entries, and displayed good playmaking with 4 effective passes in the game.
# 2 – Evan Bouchard
Bouchard has one of the most lethal shots in the draft and he showed it off in this game with 5 absolute blasts (3 of them were slap shots and 2 were snap shots). Bouchard has a good reach defensively, and uses his size and positioning to win defensive battles. His short distance speed is an area that needs to be monitored, as quicker opponents have given him some difficulties with defending the wide drive, and in cycle situations around his net. Bouchard moved the puck effectively in the game, with 6 impactful passes.
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# 9 – Gabriel Fortier (2018 Draft)
Fortier is an excellent skater with one of the fastest accelerations in junior hockey…. and he really showed it off in this game. There were 9 instances where he made positive plays as a result of his skating… including on the forecheck, backcheck, and in his 3 full-speed puck rushes up ice. Fortier created offence with his puck distribution, completing 5 effective passes in the game. He battled hard for pucks, and used his body to outmuscle opponents and win possession. Fortier displayed a willingness to work just as hard on the defensive side of the game as he did to create offence, and that really resonated with us. His speed and two-way play place him firmly in the top half of the draft rankings at this point in the season.
# 13 – Ivan Chekhovich (2017 Draft – 7th rd – San Jose)
Chekhovich was one of the more effective players at skating the puck out of the defensive zone, and showed high pace on his 2 full-length puck rushes. He displayed a heavy snapshot, and completed 4 mid-range passes to his teammates.
# 20 – Xavier Bouchard (2018 Draft)
Logged a ton of minutes, got double shifted much of the game and was a mainstay on the powerplay and penalty kill. Bouchard moved the puck very effectively, with many of his passes originating in the defensive zone and being received by teammates in the neutral zone. He had 4 dangerous shots directed towards the net, with a snapshot and slapshot of around medium pace. His footwork looked comfortable while in possession of the puck, and his stickhandling was smooth as he examined the ice. Bouchard actually skated better with the puck than without, and in the defensive zone looked a little slow when his opponents made quick maneuvers to attack the net. Bouchard is still growing into his body, and showed a lot of upside with his high intelligence level and playmaking ability.
# 11 – Filip Zadina (2018 Draft)
Great skater with an effortless stride. Had 3 full-speed rushes in the game and 4 zone entries. Distributed the puck in all three zones, and was able to make the delicate passes as well as the long-range ones. Used his edges to shuffle past opponents while at high speeds, and displayed slick hands keeping the puck away from the opposition. Zadina has a blistering snapshot which he showed off on the powerplay, getting it on the net 3 times. He would take two quick steps to create a shot lane and then put his full body weight behind each blast.
# 14 – Jared McIsaac (2018 Draft)
Looked comfortable when given time and space with the puck, displaying good edgework, knee bend and stickhandling abilities. Got off a couple hard snapshots from the point, sometimes cutting it close though… as he would shoot through the opposition as they quickly closed in. McIsaac moved the puck with relative ease, but sometimes held on too long and was then forced into a turnover by a forechecking opponent.
# 19 – Benoit-Olivier Groulx (2018 Draft)
Aggressive and speedy in pursuit of the puck on both the forecheck and backcheck. Willing to play the body, and laid a few checks on the opposition after cruising into the area with pace.. Controlled the puck at length in the offensive zone along the boards. Groulx did an outstanding job of shielding the puck by turning his back towards close-proximity defenders, and he also displayed incredible quickness with limited space, in order to maintain possession of the puck. Had 2 hard snapshot in the game, 1 on the power play and the other at even strength.
# 4 – Owen Lalonde (2018 Draft)
The 2nd overall pick in the 2016 OHL Draft. Lalonde used his stick effectively on the defensive side of the puck with multiple stick checks, and shot deflections. He was very relaxed with the puck, and had a calming effect as he methodically carried the puck up ice. Lalonde had an all-world passing game, completing pass after pass after pass, creating many of the rushes Guelph was able to carry out. His skating stride was sound, yet his lack of quickness and generally chilled out pace of play created some difficulties against faster opponents, especially with loose biscuits and defensive zone puck retrievals. Lalonde’s intelligence though, allowed him to move the puck at lightning speed and his skating created very few issues in this game. Without focusing attention on Lalonde, he didn’t stand out very much, but under the microscope, the numerous “little plays” he made generated enormous positive impact over time. He has considerable NHL upside as a defensive puck-mover and minute muncher, and we look forward to watching him and fellow Guelph prospect Ryan Merkley develop as the year moves along.
# 6 – Ryan Merkley (2018 Draft)
In this OHL game, Merkley had the video game controller in his hands and was playing it on “easy mode”. He had 3 full-speed puck rushes, 6 zone entries, 4 dangerous shots, 12 effective passes, and an additional 40 positive plays. He never rested after an unbelievable shift or even sat back. Instead, he wanted more. If he had 2 puck rushes, a spin move, a deke and a great pass on one shift, he tried to do even better on the next shift. This relentless pursuit to create offence is what makes Merkley such a highly rated prospect for the draft.
He certainly took risks in the game.. deking through players, getting deep in the offensive zone, passing through sticks and legs.. but most of the time it worked, because he is just that good. At the NHL level, Merkley will do best to have a shutdown defensive partner, so that he is free to take risks and create offence. In terms of pure skill, he is right up there with the other top prospects and will be a treat to watch this season.
With hockey leagues all over the world getting under way, let’s get you updated on all the top prospects for the 2018 NHL Draft..
2018 NHL Draft: Overview
It is still early, but the crop of players for the upcoming draft looks exceptional. The top of the draft is elite, teetering on generational. The first round as a whole is extremely deep, with a defensive class that looks to provide cornerstone number 1’s and number 2’ for many years to come. And with the depth of the draft, it looks quite likely that a significant number of players selected outside the first round will go on to have fruitful NHL careers.
Each summer before the start of the junior hockey season, there is a U-18 tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, called the Ivan Hlinka Memorial. It is here that many of the top prospects for the draft get together to represent their countries, compete for medals, and finally, to provide scouts an early look at the international draft class. After last years tournament.. the 2016 Ivan Hlinka.. the buzz in the scouting community was almost non-existent. The players did not appear to be elite, and the draft was shaping up to be one of the weaker ones in recent memory….. And yet, as the season went along and now that the draft has concluded, the scouting community and hockey fans all over the world have seriously warmed up to the prospects, and the 2017 draft class is starting to project as fairly solid, if not slightly above average in comparison to other years. As a testament to this, two late first round picks from the draft, who were not even expected to sniff the NHL for at least another year or two, have made their NHL team’s opening night rosters for the start of the regular season. These two players are Kailer Yamamoto of the Edmonton Oilers, and Filip Chytil of the New York Rangers.
Now….. let’s contrast the sentiment and buzz (or lack thereof) from last year’s draft class to this year’s.. The 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament has concluded, with the powerhouse Canadians overcoming the energized, exuberant, home-ice underdog Czech’s in the gold medal match, to the tune of a 4-1 victory. The tournament was a great opportunity for the scouts at CrossBarr to get an early look at some of the prospects for the upcoming draft, and based on the outstanding play from the participants, we are as excited as ever to watch these players strut their stuff and compete for their draft positions throughout the entirety of this season.
Let’s get up to date on some of the top prospects from this tournament as well as some other notable players to keep an eye on this season.
At the conclusion of the 2017 Ivan Hlinka, we performed a thorough analysis of all the players in the tournament and officially crowned Adam Boqvist as the most valuable, and best all-around player. (Our complete Ivan Hlinka player rankings are posted on CrossBarrConsulting.com in the scouting section) He displayed the total skillset package and excelled in all aspects of the game. Boqvist is a dynamic player that uses his breakaway speed to perform full-length rushes and has the vision to distribute the puck at any sign of high pressure. He has quick hands and will challenge defenders straight on knowing he can sidestep the opposition with good lateral movement and has the hands to keep the puck out of reach. His shot is hard and accurate, especially the snapshot, which is his preferred all-situations shot. Boqvist defends with his quick feet, and an effective stickcheck.
Adam Boqvist was rated 19th overall on our pre-Hlinka draft list, and shot up all the way to the 3rd position at the conclusion of the tournament. If there was a player outside of Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov that could challenge for the 1st overall pick, Adam Boqvist would be that guy. In terms of style, he projects as an Erik Karlsson type player. Boqvist has rotated between Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League and the Brynäs U-20 team so far this season.
The first ever Quebec Major Junior player to be granted exceptional status, Veleno was able to play in the league during his 15 year old season. Being compared to other exceptional status players like John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid can certainly be a heavy weight to bear, but Veleno has responded in a positive way during his two seasons of QMJHL play. He has yet to break out in a dominant fashion in terms of point totals, notching 43 pts in 62 gms, and 40 pts in 45 gms last season… but based on his dominant play at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, look for Joe Veleno to tear up the ‘Q’ this year with his blazing speed, and to seriously challenge for a top three position at the upcoming draft.
Along with Veleno’s great speed, he possesses a heavy shot, quick release, and an ability to disguise his release point on snapshots. He is also an adept passer of the puck.. giving defenders a very tough assignment, as it is close to a 50/50 chance of whether Veleno will take the shot or find an open man when he is in control of the puck. Veleno is playing in Saint John (QMJHL) this year, after coming off a Quebec championship and Memorial Cup berth last season.
Behind only Veleno and Boqvist, Kupari was CrossBarr’s third best performer at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka tournament. Splitting time between U-18 and U-20 programs in Finland last year, Kupari made big strides this offseason, and has battled his way into the Karpat lineup, in the top Finnish men’s league for this upcoming season. In the spring of 2017, Kupari played up an age group in the U-18 World Championships on the ‘kid line’ along with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and together they helped Finland all the way to a 2nd place finish.
Kupari is an offense first player that possesses incredible speed, and a determination to control the puck like few others. He will look to establish a 200 foot game, as well as putting weight onto his 163 lb frame in order to excel at higher levels. Kupari projects to go in the top half of the first round at the 2018 draft.
Took his game to the next level at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Thomas can play in all-situations and has a shot that will produce in the NHL. His lack of a dominant ‘wow factor’ trait may slightly deflate his draft position, but our early projections see Thomas as one of the best players in this draft class. Coming off an impressive 48 pt campaign (61 gms) as a 16 yr old, Thomas is underway in his second OHL season at Niagara.
We’ve seen his highlight videos already, and yes, they’re mesmerizing. What’s even more amazing is that he’s doing them as a 16 yr old against grown men (if you haven’t seen the highlights yet, check them out)! Rasmus Dahlin is the early favorite to go 1st overall, looking to become the first Swede since Mats Sundin in 1989 to achieve this honor.
Dahlin is an offensive dynamo, who has such a level of poise with the puck that…. not only will he stickhandle around you in a phone booth… he will also dip, dive, duck, and straight up dodge you too.. with his superior footwork, edges and body positioning. Dahlin is more than adequate at defending, and will frequently use his body to knock players off the puck.
Right now, the battle for 1st overall sees a slight edge to Dahlin with Andrei Svechnikov and Adam Boqvist nipping at his heels. Dahlin is playing this season in the Swedish Hockey League with Frolunda.
He has been under the microscope for a long time now, after playing up one, and sometimes two age brackets in international tournaments over the last few years. Svechnikov tore up the USHL last season, a remarkable feat for a 16 yr old, where he put up 29 goals, 29 assists and 58 pts in just 48 games for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Svechnikov possesses good size at 6’2 and will look to break the 200 lb barrier as he adds bulk to his frame, which will make it even tougher for the opposition to knock him off the puck. Known for his deadly shot, Andrei is playing for the Barrie Colts this season, where he will continue to terrorize netminders on his way to a top three draft position in June.
Skates like Scott Niedermayer, where the stride is so pure and effortless that you are left wondering how he just possibly blew by every last defender. Quinn Hughes is a new-age defenseman that is small, speedy, and offensive minded. An intelligent player who excels at zone entries, Hughes can quarterback the powerplay, and is also an effective puck mover. This year will be a great test for Hughes, as he plays at the University of Michigan under new head coach Mel Pearson, after Red Berenson, the coach since 1984, retired last season.
Defenseman for Guelph in the OHL. We know he can bring it offensively, as he put up staggering numbers as a 16 yr old last season (55 pts in 62 gms) and.. unbelievably.. led his entire team in points. The challenge this year will be to round out his defensive game as he looks to prove he can be a 200 ft player. Very likely to be a top 20 pick at the NHL draft.
The son of former NHLer Keith and brother of current Calgary Flame Matthew, Brady Tkachuk brings a rare skillset amongst the top rated players in the draft. His combination of skating, hands, and ferocity, make him a terror for the opposition and a dream for his linemates. Tkachuk will do whatever it takes to help his team gain the upper hand. This includes getting in on the forecheck, making a big hit, pile driving the puck towards the net, sliding to block a shot, leading the rush with his wheels, cycling the puck, and skating hard on the backcheck after a lengthy offensive zone shift.
Tkachuk will look to improve on his stride and shot this season, and should have a great year of development playing against older NCAA players as he starts his freshman campaign at Boston University. Look for Tkachuk to be a top 10, possibly top 5 pick at the 2018 draft.
# 71 – David Levin (2018 Draft)
Levin is a calculating player that likes to slow the pace down and rely on his vision and hands to achieve results. He skated at a relaxed pace on his 2 forechecks, and really tried to read where the play was headed vs trying to overwhelm the defenders with speed. Levin’s main weapon is his silky hands, as he completed 7 successful dekes in this game, many of which led to odd-man opportunities after he was able to isolate a defender and beat them one on one. He also completed 2 effective passes in this game. We are looking for Levin to ramp up his pace of play and skate at full speed more frequently in order to achieve success at higher levels.
# 83 – Zack Malik (2018 Draft)
Kept it simple, made smart decision with the puck, and didn’t have any major errors. Completed 1 long-range, and 2 effective mid-range passes in the game. Malik is not a slow player, but is by no means a speed demon, and his stride is solid, while being a touch heavy. Malik did an admirable job on the power play, moving the puck with ease in the offensive zone, as well as getting pucks towards the net with his shot. This shot, by the way, is absolutely enormous. Malik had 2 dangerous slapshots in the game, both of which were struck with such power and ferocity that it looked like the goalie might get blown backwards upon impact. This shot is a big asset for Malik, and along with his steady overall play should make him an exciting player to watch as we march along towards the NHL draft.
# 4 – Justin MacPherson (2018 Draft)
Displayed a fluid skating stride and was able to dart away from close-range attackers with good edgework and slick maneuvering. On 2 occasions MacPherson used his quick stick to poke the puck away from the opposition. Was a trusted member on the penalty kill, and while in control of the puck, MacPherson made the simple smart plays to move the puck up ice. Has two-way upside and is a player we will be keeping a close eye on throughout the season.
# 44 – Akil Thomas (2018 Draft)
Watching a skilled player like Thomas, it was nice to see his significant efforts away from the puck as well. 4 times during the game, he was in on the forecheck at top speed, creating major problems for the opposition breakout. When his teammates had the puck, Thomas would look for soft spots on the ice and start skating hard in that direction in order to back up defenders and also to become available for a pass. He had control of the puck (at length) 7 times during the game, and used soft hands as well as his patience, in order to make things happen offensively. Thomas’ skating was adequate but could certainly be improved. He moved his feet quickly, and without much knee bend, resulting in a shortish, and slightly rougher stride. His high foot turnover partially made up for this, but there is still work to be done, and we look forward to seeing progress on this during the season. Thomas is a highly effective point producer who works hard in all three zones of the ice and we see him as one of the top prospects in the upcoming draft.